Anyone who is an ardent reader of the Bible must have asked this question at one point in their Christian journey: what is the most accurate Bible translation?
One of the reasons people ask these questions is because they want to have a precise and clear picture of any incident in the Bible. Regarding the words spoken by people in the Bible, Christians who ask for the best accurate Bible translation want to be sure that what they are reading has not lost its true meaning due to translation.
In this article, we will be delving into different Bible translations and looking at what makes them different from one another. Also, we will look at the different accuracy claims by the owners of these Bible translations.
What is the Bible
The Bible has different definitions in various schools of thought. However, the Bible can also be defined as the compilation of sacred books and letters that tell the story of how the Earth started up until how Jesus Christ came to the Earth, which marked the beginning of Christianity.
Also, the Bible contains 66 books and letters that about 40 authors wrote. Originally, the Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
Scholars claim that the Old Testament was majorly written in Hebrew and a minute part in Aramaic. While Greek was used to write the New Testament. Many sources call the Bible the written word of God to the world. Hence, they state that the Bible is without any error, because its words are holy.
The Bible embodies an interesting love story between God and his most important creations, humans. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s plans for mankind unfold while revealing his will and intent.
Who was the writer of the original Bible before it was translated
When it comes to the most accurate Bible translation, many people usually ask about the writer of the original Bible before it’s translation. It is important to mention that the Bible was written by Holy men of God, who the Holy Spirit inspired. All the books of the Bible were written at different times, predicted to be within 1500 years of time.
2 Peter 1:20-21 (ESV)
Knowing this, first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness that the man of God may be completely equipped for every good work.
Types of Bible translations
Every Bible translation intends to improve readability and establish accuracy to the original Bible texts and manuscripts. No Bible translation is 100% accurate from the original texts, but many of the common translations we have today do suffice for having a good understanding of God’s word.
Here are the types of Bible translations
English Bible versions that adopt this type of translation use an approach known as formal equivalence. This type of translation attempts to select an English word for the original text and then strive to retain the closeness in meaning to the original text.
The downside of this is, reading can become tedious. Since the original Bible texts were written, thousands of years have passed. The culture we have today is very different from what existed then. The same applies to the language we speak.
Hence, using language that is no longer applicable in today’s culture might be seen as weird and uncomfortable. This is why modern Bible translators worked on ensuring the language used reflects what the modern society is familiar with.
Some of the formal translations we are familiar with include the English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), The New King James Version (NKJV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), etc.
Functional translations, also called meaning for meaning versions, are a type of translation that is focused on improving readability and clarity.
Scholars who adopt functional translations find out the meaning of a verse; then, they translate it in a way that affects today’s readers. This is done hoping that it would have the same effect that the old text had on ancient readers.
However, even though the translation allows readers to easily grasp the Scripture, the texts are freer to decipher than formal translations.
Hence, some of these texts can have more than one meaning, different from what the original author had in mind. Common functional translations are The New English Translation (NET), The New International Reader’s Version, and the New Living Translation (NLT).
Moderate Translations provide a balance between formal and functional translations. Common examples are The Christian Standard Bible, The New Revised Standard Version, and the New International Version.
Not all translations can be regarded as actual ones because some were rewritten in a simpler language for people to understand. These types of translations are called paraphrases, where some literary interpretations and structures are completely replaced with modern terminologies.
Therefore, these paraphrases give a very high level of understanding in today’s language. However, some schools of thought maintained that these paraphrases sometimes stray away from the essence and original interpretations of the texts. Hence, they opine that it is not a good devotional tool.
Examples of paraphrases are the Message and the Living Bible.
Common English translations of the Bible
Since the Bible was written in the original languages, namely: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, it has been translated into many languages, including English. People continue to ask, what is the most accurate Bible translation for the English translation? Here’s a walkthrough of the common English translations that people think are accurate.
1. The King James Version
The King James Version (KJV) is popularly known as the Authorized Version or the King James Bible (KJB). The KJV is an English translation of the Bible commissioned in 1604, then published in 1611. King James VI and I was responsible for sponsoring the commissioning and publishing of the book.
The King James Version has three sections, namely the Old Testament, an intertestamental phase, and New Testament with 39, 14, and 27 books, respectively. It is interesting to note that the King James Version is said to be one of the essential books in the English world.
John Norton and Robert Barker, who were the King’s Printers, printed the King James version. This printing first happened in 1611, but the current edition is the 1769 version. Many of the words and phrases in the King James Version are found in the English Language of this age.
John 3:16 (KJV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
2. The New King James Version
The New King James Version (NKJV) is another common English translation of the Holy Bible. Arthur Farstad pioneered the project that birthed the NKJV. This project was inaugurated in 1975, where theologians, biblical scholars, and other religious leaders attended.
The NKJV translation project was instituted to improve the grammar, syntax, spelling, and vocabulary of the King James Version. Although the translation did not mean to put aside the beauty of the original King James version.
Hence, this translation came with an easier-to-understand event account, a detailed history of each book in the bible, concordance, and a dictionary. Eventually, the translation project was completed, and Thomas Nelson published the first NKJV Bible.
John 3:16 (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
3. The New International Version
One common and modern English Bible translation is the New International Version(NIV). The NIV was first published by the International Bible Society, now called Biblica, in 1978. The NIV translation project was done to achieve a clear and readable version of the earliest Bible manuscript that existed at the time.
Therefore, everyone who worked on the project had the unified goal of making the NIV easily understandable in today’s English. The NIV is the result of 15 astute Biblical scholars from different evangelical denominations. They worked on trusted texts written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
While the translation was in progress, it was continuously vetted, and ardent Bible readers were invited at several intervals to review the Bible based on comprehension and interpretation.
The NIV is still subject to further revisions and modifications depending on fresh discoveries and the evolution of the English language. The New International Version is currently published by Zondervan and Hodder & Stoughton in the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
4. The American Standard Version
The American Standard Version (ASV) is a popular English translation of the Bible that has gone by several names. These names are The American Revised Version, the American Standard edition, the American Standard Revision, and the American Standard Revised Bible.
In 1901, the revision of the Old Testament was published, while the modified New Testament was published in 1900. The ASV translation project began in 1870 to revise the King James Bible of 1611. Many spiritual leaders in America were invited to participate in the translation project.
Some of the denominations on the translation committee were Methodist, Congregationalist, Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Dutch Reformed, and the Protestant Episcopal.
One of the outstanding features of the American Standard Version is the consistent use of “Jehovah” in the Old Testament instead of “Lord” as it appears in the King James Bible. Another feature is using the Holy Spirit instead of the Holy Ghost in the New Testament.
John 3:16 (KJV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.
5. The Amplified Bible
The Amplified Bible, commonly called AMP, is an English translation. The Lockman Foundation and Zondervan did this translation. This Bible translation is a revised edition of the American Standard Version.
The translation project of the Amplified Bible sought to elaborate on the text with the use of extra words, punctuations, and other features to make each verse more clear. One of the ways to know you are reading the Amplified Bible is when you see some phrases or words in brackets.
Hence, the reason for this is to indicate that these pieces were not in the original texts. However, with those words or phrases in parenthesis, you can have a clearer meaning of the text you are reading. It is important to mention that the 2015 edition of the Amplified Bible has more amplification in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.
Also, the Bible has been severally revised so that readers can grasp the texts smoothly. People who use the native Amplified Bible will not find it difficult to read the revised Amplified Bible text.
John 3:16 (AMP)
“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.
6. The Living Bible
The Living Bible, also known as TLB, is an English paraphrase. This translation project was spearheaded by Kenneth N. Taylor, and the first copies came out in 1971. For the Living Bible project to be actualized, Kenneth used the American Standard Version (1901) as his reference text.
In 1979, Taylor had an interview with Harold Myra of Christianity today, where he explained why the Living Bible came into existence. He mentioned that it was difficult for them to grasp the King James Version during his family devotions.
Severely, his children were either lost or confused about what some of the passages talked about. Hence, to make them understand better, he would paraphrase the text to make it better understood.
One day, an idea struck that it would be better to paraphrase the reading for their daily devotional during his meditation time.
So, instead of paraphrasing during their devotional in the evening, Taylor decided to try out this idea. The results he got that evening were astounding, because his children understood the devotional text better, and they got the answers to every question.
John 3:16 (TLB)
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
7. The New Living Translation
The New Living Translation, also called the NLT, is an English translation of the Holy Bible. Originally, the New Living Translation project was launched to revise the Living Bible. However, the project took a new turn, and the New Living Translation became a separate project.
Like many Bible translations in English, the NLT has its source texts from the original Greek and Hebrew texts. Also, the NLT project was driven by translators from diverse Christian denominators. The NLT translation project had a double goal.
It tried to provide an accurate translation from the original Bible texts, while also explaining texts that modern readers could not easily understand. The language used in the NLT project was adopted because of people who would study the passages read in the Church during their devotionals or spare time.
However, critics have opined that anyone who wants to study the scriptures in-depth should not rely on the New Living Translation. This translation is easy to understand, but its literal accuracy is not at par with the others.
John 3:16 (NLT)
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
8. The English Standard Version
If you are looking for the most accurate Bible translation, the English Standard Version is one you can rely on.
The English Standard Version, also known as ESV, is an English translation of the scriptures. Crossway published this version in 2001 by a team of top-notch evangelical scholars and revered spiritual leaders. The ESV has its source from the recently reviewed editions of the first Hebrew and Greek texts.
According to Crossway, the ESV is a continuum of the excellent standard set by versions like William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament. And also followed by versions like KJV, ASV, and RSV. Crossway also mentioned that the English Standard Version embodies accurate translation, detailed meanings, and literary distinction.
This translation also considers crucial factors such as differences in spellings, syntax, and grammar between modern English and the original Bible languages. In 2008, the ESV Study Bible was published by Crossway, which had more than a million copies sold.
Interestingly, the Evangelical Christian Publishers conferred the award of “The Christian Book of the Year” on the ESV Study Bible in 2009. This would be the first time in the award’s history that a study Bible would clinch the award.
John 3:16 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
9. The New American Standard Bible
The New American Standard Bible is also called NASB for short, and it is an English translation of the Holy Scriptures. The NASB was published by Lockman Foundation. In 1960, the Gospel of John translation was published, which happened to be the first NASB text.
Subsequently, the NASB New Testament was published in 1963. Then, the full NASB Bible was published in 1971. According to the Lockman Foundation, the translation type for the NASB Bible is Formal equivalence. Hence, it strengthens their claim for being one of the most accurate Bible translations.
The New American Standard Bible translators had a four-point agenda before the translation project commenced. The first was to use accurate and original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic text. Then, they promised to use grammatically correct and understandable words.
Lastly, they were focused on giving Jesus Christ his rightful place in the scriptures, and ensuring that nobody’s labor would be personalized.
John 3:16 (NASB)
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
10. The Christian Standard Bible
The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is an English translation of the Bible. This translation was a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) 2009 edition. The translation project reached completion in June 2016.
Then, the first complete edition was released to the public in March 2017. Three years later, in February 2020, the translation got a full update. The Goal of the Christian Standard Bible translation project was to bring its readers into a more intimate relationship with God, their heavenly father.
Therefore, the translation was done in modern English that everyone can identify with and easily understand. The translation philosophy adopted by the CSB was Optimal Equivalence.
This translation philosophy is between the linguistic precision of the original texts and modern English. The entire translation team that worked on the CSB project were 21 conservative scholars with evangelical backgrounds.
Some were Presbyterian, Lutheran, Conservative Anglican, Southern Baptist, etc. According to scholars, the CSB is one of the translations that provide accuracy in text interpretation during teachings and devotionals. Everyone can read the CSB knowing that they will receive the full measure of God’s word.
John 3:16 (CSB)
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Frequently asked questions
What is the most accurate translation of the Bible in the world
Christian Scholars and theologians worldwide cannot find a common footing when it comes to the most accurate Bible translation. As languages continue to evolve, there are more options with their bragging rights for why they are the most accurate Bible translation.
As a student of the Bible, it is important not to burden yourself with searching for the best Bible translation. What is important is getting a translation that you can easily understand. Also, get a translation that makes it difficult for your quiet time to flow smoothly.
What version of the Bible is closest to the original translation?
There is no verifiable source that tells us the Bible version closest to the original translation. However, many of the English Bible translations mentioned in this article, like the KJV, NASB, NLT, CSB, ESV, NKV, etc., are close to the original translation. But, there is no supreme Bible version.
How accurate is the Bible to the original?
The accuracy of the modern Bible to the original texts cannot be quantified. There are thousands of translations in different languages, and it is almost impossible to determine their accuracy to the original texts. Ensuring that you receive clarity and understanding when you read the Bible matters.
Why was the book of Enoch removed from the Bible?
People often wonder why the Book of Enoch was not included in the Modern Bible we read today. First off, it is important to mention that even though it is called the Book of Enoch, it was not written by Enoch.
The book of Enoch belongs to the Pseudepigrapha books, which were written before Jesus Christ came to Earth. From what was recorded in the scriptures during Christ’s ministry on Earth, he, his disciples, and the apostles never referenced the book of Enoch.
Hence, many scholars feel that the book of Enoch was not part of the scriptures, even though it was revered by some of the elders in the early Church.
Where is the original Bible kept?
According to sources, the oldest Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament is Codex Leningradensis. This codex was discovered in Egypt and is currently at the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg.
Another complete manuscript of the Bible called the Codex Vaticanus, which includes the Greek translation of the New Testament, Hebrew, and Greek Scriptures is in the Vatican Library.
Who wrote the 1st Bible?
Many sources claim that the first five books of the Bible, popularly called the Pentateuch, were written by Moses, who was of Hebrew origin.
However, some scholars claim that Moses couldn’t witness his own death. Therefore, these claims suggest that Joshua, Moses’ Successor, might have written some verses.
There are many Bible translations in the world today, and the goal of each of them is to ensure that the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts are accurately translated or paraphrased. The Bible translations mentioned in this article are all accurate to a great extent, and they can be relied on for in-depth study of the word of God.
So, if you want to study the Bible, it is advised to use more than one translation to ensure you have a broader understanding of the scriptures. Before you choose any translation though, make sure your research is on the relatively right ones.